THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST, 2017

A slight departure today, dear reader.

Hitherto, this blog has been dedicated to covering elections political, but we all know, deep down, that the only election that really matters is the one they do over the phone, for about 25p, every May. It is of course, that time of year again: the fabulous Eurovision Song Contest is back.

Now, we all know that there are certain… patterns when it comes to voting, and although some cynics would say it is only politics, and not the quality of the songs/performances that matters, I would resist this understanding, which, while having some relevance, is far too simplistic – if this was simply the case, Russia (who aren’t attending this year’s contest) would walk to victory every time. And they don’t.

So, what follows is less an empirical investigation into historical voting trends, as much as my own gut feeling regarding how the voting will pan out on the evening. It will be casually informed by the following:

  • Performances in Tuesday and Thursday’s semi finals
  • Historical voting tendencies
  • Objective quality of the song
  • My own baseless hunches

Let’s get started.

  1. ISRAEL, Imri, ‘I Feel Alive’

The dreaded opening slot is given over to the Israelis. Add this to the fact that the good peoples of Europe will be grumbling through the first minute of the song over questions of geography, and it makes for a forgettable mix. The song itself is one of the more… cosmopolitan efforts, by which I mean thrusting biceps are being flexed from start to finish, which will prove pleasing to one of the ESC’s most reliable voting blocs, but probably won’t carry enough broad appeal to allow it to climb far from the foot of the table. PREDICTION: 21st

2. POLAND, Kasia Moś, ‘Flashlight’

If you rolled up all Eurovision entries ever to create an average, this is the sort of beige machination it would probably spit out. Poland’s ‘Flashlight’ (or as British English would have it ‘Torch’) is a pretty standard female ballad, with a bit of added Slavic anger. Fortunately for Poland, their neighbours are pretty reliable voters, and proved as much last year when their entry’s excellent performance in the televote was vastly disproportionate to their pitiful marks for the jury. Nonetheless, last year’s entry was a genuinely popular song, and a bit ‘different’ while I feel this year’s is too unremarkable for me to see it going far, especially given it’s being so early on. PREDICTION: 22nd

3. BELARUS, Naviband, ‘Story of My Life’

The first non-English effort of the night is this cheery folk-romp from Europe’s last dictatorship. It did very well to get through the semi-finals given it being a native-tongue entry, and their geopolitical position and alignment means it is well placed to mop up a good deal of the douze and dix points usually reserved for their big brother-mother Russia. I personally quite like the song and it’s upbeat dynamism seemed to strike a chord with the crowd in the semi. A dark house from white Russia. PREDICTION: 9th

4. AUSTRIA, Nathan Trent, ‘Running on Air’

This is about as far from Conchita as you can get. It’s a 30 something white dude cheerily musing about himself taking it easy. It’s about as dull as it sounds and then some. While not actively offensive it is one of the blandest efforts this year but may be able to save some face by being one of those pesky landlocked countries with plenty of well-disposed neighbours. But not much face. PREDICTION: 19th.

5. ARMENIA, Artsvik, ‘Fly with Me’

Don’t let the title fool you, this one has about as little connection to Sinatra as the ESC itself does to the Rat Pack. Armenia’s qualification record is pretty staggering given the small size of the country, not having many neighbours, and according to some, not even being European. They tend to get into the top half by employing some of the best and brightest in the Eurovision biz and churning out well produced, well staged efforts. This year’s is a bit of a divergence from that, in that it has the essence to some degree of actually being influenced by Armenian culture,  as opposed to the secular, neutral pop hits it usually gives us. The gamble will probably win as many votes as it loses for them, and they’ll do pretty well once more. PREDICTION: 11th

6. NETHERLANDS, O’G3NE, ‘Lights and Shadows’

This power-ballad sister act is a refreshing take from the Dutch who tend to give us more folksy-stonery leaning efforts. It’s not a bad song at all, and the three women harmonise very nicely. But that’s all it is, it’s quite good, and it’ll probably scrape the left-side of the board, which is no mean feat for them. PREDICTION: 12th

7. MOLDOVA, Sunstroke Project, ‘Hey Mamma!’

Yep, yes, ok, everyone knows by now that it’s the Epic Sax Guy returning. While I found the prospect entertaining at first, I don’t think the gimmick will actually pay off to quite the extent the Moldovans are probably hoping. Don’t forget that the performance for which he became famous actually did quite poorly on the night. This one will fare a bit better, as it is actually quite a catchy cheese-fest, but it won’t blow anyone away. PREDICTION: 13th

8. HUNGARY, Joci Pápai, ‘Origo’

A second own-language entry of the night, and like Belarus, I think this will do better than most people suspect. Before the semi final I really couldn’t get into the song, but it really works live for some reason and is pretty distinctive in it’s evocation of Hungarian folklore and custom. Add to that a fairly loyal voting bloc of surrounding countries, and, while I don’t think it’ll win, it will upset the apple cart a bit. PREDICTION: 6th

9. ITALY, Francesco Gabbani, ‘Occidentali’s Karma’

This year’s favourite, and one can see why. A catchy pop tune, a distinctive dance move, a gimicky gorilla, and of course, an Italian singing in Italian, which tends to lend the prestige and distinction to the country’s entries that see if often do better than the song objectively deserves to do. I have my reservations having seen the rehearsals though. Gabbani seems to be enjoying himself a bit too much, to the detriment of the choreography and the staging. Add to that the fact that the Italians did pretty poorly last year and the pressure is on for him to get them back up that table, not least to add to the natural pressure that comes with being the favourite. It’s also a bit early for a traditional winner, but ultimately that’s not a hugely important statistic, as long as you aren’t outright first or last. Do I think it’ll win? Probably yes, but it won’t be as clear a path as many are expecting. The popular vote favours Eastern countries, so this will probably need to be the strong favourite among the jury in the first round to ensure it has enough of a buffer come the televotes to become numero uno. PREDICTION: 1st

10. DENMARK, Anja, ‘Where I Am’

This isn’t a terrible song by any means, but it’ll be forgotten pretty quickly. The only notable thing is that Anja, the singer, is  actually an Australian, so don’t be surprised if she’s given douze points from down under. Other than that, expect a quiet night from the Danes. PREDICTION: 20th

11. PORTUGAL, Salvador Sobral, Amar Pelos Dois

One I personally can’t stand, but which I have to admit has a strong popular appeal. It’s certainly different, a native language cool jazzy effort from a man who looks like he was the product of an ill-conceived night of passion between a drunken bear and a shameless wolf. But my opinions count for little. It’s a bit like Poland’s entry last year, although I think the juries will actually quite like this one too. The only problem for the Portuguese is that of neighbours, and a distinct lack thereof. Even the Spanish don’t have a great record voting for them. Nonetheless, I would be surprised if it doesn’t stay in contention for most of the evening. PREDICTION: 5th

12. AZERBAIJAN, Dihaj, ‘Skeletons’

This one’s a bit special. A crossbreed between some sort of soundtrack about a dystopian cyberpunk future and a pretentious exhibit at a modern art museum, this really is peak Eurovision. The song is not actually too bad either, but you really won’t have the faculties to be focusing on melody, rhythm and pitch with everything going on in the foreground. Like their Armenian neighbours, the Azeris have gone for something a little riskier this year, and, like their Armenian neigbours, it probably won’t have too much of an overall effect on their average mid-table finish. But it’s certainly a highlight of the evening, so do enjoy. PREDICTION: 17th

13. CROATIA, Jacques Houdek, ‘My Friend’

Another that hits the more Eurovisiony end of this year’s entries, this effort is an experimental fusion of conventional pop ballad and opera, sung by the same man who uses camera tricks which will have you saying ‘HOW DID HE DO THAT?!’. I kid, obviously, but it’s difficult to say how this strange amalgam will be received, although the fact it got through the semis in the first place is not a bad omen. Plus, they are the only entry from the former Yugoslavia competing in the Grand Final, and if there’s anyone that reliably sheds out votes to their neighbours regardless of quality, it’s the Western Balkans. As such, expect an inconsistent voting pattern with a couple of douze points from its neighbours that should see it do quite well. PREDICTION: 7th

14. AUSTRALIA, Isaiah, ‘Don’t Come Easy’

The third year of their Eurovision journey, and the Antipodean novelty has started to wear off. Although they made it through the semis, this effort is much weaker than last year’s, and some of the novel goodwill from their first year will have dissipated. Another where it’s difficult to say where they’ll end up because it’s not an entirely rubbish effort; it sounds like a Sam Smith B-Side, but I’d expect the Aussies to drop quite suddenly from their comfortable finishes in 2015 and 2016. PREDICTION: 15th

15. GREECE, Demy, ‘This Is Love’

Greece are back following an unusual Hellene hiatus last year. It probably won’t be a victorious comeback, however. The song is a pretty average dance-club affair that might, MIGHT, just get douze points from Cyprus. It’ll either be at the bottom of the left half of the board or the top of the right half. PREDICTION: 16th

16. SPAIN, Manel Navarro, ‘Do It for Your Lover’

Good grief this entry. A truly vomit-inducing effort from a country that can’t really afford to put forward a weak song given the few neighbours it does have never give it many points. It’s naff fluff that would never have survived the semi final and I don’t see any country’s televote or jury having much time for it. It’s rubbish; wooden spoon. PREDICTION: 26th

17. NORWAY, JOWST, ‘Grab the Moment’

Another annoying piece of fluff. I mean he’s wearing a wide-brimmed black hat. Come on. The song is dull, repetitive mush that will struggle to even gain the support of it’s fellow Scandies. Goodness knows how it qualified. It’s rubbish. But maybe slightly less rubbish than Spain. Slightly. PREDICTION: 25th

18. UNITED KINGDOM, Lucie Jones, ‘Never Give Up on You’

Right ok, so I’m obviously biased. But I don’t care, I really like this one. Pretty much all the other traditional female ballads got cut in the semis so I’m really hopeful this genuinely well crafted and staged effort will shake off the shocking British record of recent years. While I don’t think it can win, there’s definitely scope for a couple of douze points from the likes of Ireland, Malta, and Australia that could see it perform really strongly. Oh and Brexit won’t really matter; we don’t get goodwill neighbour votes anyway, and 9 of the 26 (if you include the UK) performing are non-EU members, not to mention many more that will be voting who aren’t part of the club. So good luck Lucie, the nation’s behind you. PREDICTION: 8th

19. CYPRUS, Hovig, ‘Gravity’

I was surprised this one got through the semis; it’s really quite dull, and starts with a fairly outrageous lifting of the opening riff from Rag ‘n’ Bone Man’s ‘Human’. Angry man in a leather jacket complains and stomps on the ground, etc. etc. I mean of course, the unthinkable could happen and it may, just may, squeeze douze televotes from Greece, who even had the cheek last year to give a pretty unpopular Cypriot effort huit points. A real bottom feeder. PREDICTION: 23rd

20. ROMANIA, Ilinca & Alex Florea, ‘Yodel It!’

Make sure to tune in for this Eurovision-tastic entry. A rap (‘rap’)-yodel hybrid, this is genuine eurotrash and I love it. Unfortunately I don’t think my love will transfer into a particularly impressive performance from the returning Romanians. With the inevitable douze points from Moldova aside, it should end up slap bang in the middle of the table. PREDICTION: 14th

21. GERMANY, Levina, ‘Perfect Life’

Dear me. The Germans came bottom last year and seem determined to repeat the achievement. The song is notable only for the fairly blatant ‘Titanium’ rip off at the beginning, and I think it will be justly condemned. The only thing that’ll prevent it finishing bottom is that Norway and Spain are even worse. Dear me. PREDICTION: 24th

22. UKRAINE, O. Torvald, ‘Time’

With this rock effort, the Ukrainians have sent the message across fairly strongly; please, please don’t make us host this thing again. It’s not godawful, and there is a fairly reliable kind of Eurovision voter who will go for the rock entry that appears from nowhere every year, but I think Kiev can rest assured they can keep their wallets regarding hosting duties in 2018.  PREDICTION: 18th

23. BELGIUM, Blanche, ‘City Lights’

One of the favourites, and I can kind of see why, but I think it’s just a bit too indie to win the televote. The juries will probably lap it up, particularly in the West, and in fairness they can rely on douze points from the likes of the Netherlands and Germany, and it’s also in a better position, timing wise, than it’s biggest rival in ninth. But I get the feeling Italy’s more conventional pop anthem will just sneak past them. It’ll be a close contes no doubt, but I think the plucky Belgians will fall just short. PREDICTION: 2nd

24. SWEDEN, Robin Bengtsson, ‘I Can’t Go On’

Another one tipped to do well, and it is a catchy effort. The Swedes have done phenomenally well over the last few years, and it’s not completely far-fetched to see them coming up through the middle and claiming the trophy for the third time in half a decade. I can’t see it happening though. While the song’s good and choreographed well, I think Italy and Belgium have upped their game enough to come above them in both the tele and jury votes. A strong contender nonetheless. PREDICTION: 4th

25. BULGARIA, Kristian Kostov, ‘Beautiful Mess’

The show ends very strongly with four real contenders in a row, and out of those four, this penultimate entry may catch the eye most if only for the fact its singer is a mere 17 years of age. It’s one of the few contenders from Eastern Europe, although I fear it may come just a smidge too late to have the impact it might otherwise have, especially given it’s on the slower slide. Nice enough, but slow. Most people will probably have already decided on their vote by this point, but still expect another good showing from the Bulgarians. PREDICTION: 10th

26. FRANCE, Alma, Requiem

J’aime. J’aime a lot. The gorgeous Alma reels off her homeland’s exquisite language to a Stromae-inspired beat in a piece that could genuinely chart. Unfortunately, I just feel, much like Napoleon trying to bridge the gap between Iberia and Siberia, the French have too large a task on their hands. They’re last which, as said above, means most people will have already made up their minds. Add to that the stiff competition from their neighbours to the north-east and south-east and even the generous inclusion of an English verse probably won’t be enough. Nonetheless, it will be a strong night for France, and build on their good performance last year. Encore. PREDICTION: 3rd

 

Well that’s me done. Of course this could all be a load of nonsense and don’t be surprised if I’ve got everything horrendously wrong and Spain storm to victory tomorrow evening. The biggest unknown is where all those lost Russian votes will fall. It’s a real wild card which will make for an even more fascinating contest than usual. Enjoy the evening friends: get drunk, be merry, and revel in the few hours every year we dedicate to just celebrating our common silliness rather than fighting amongst ourselves.

Vive L’Eurovision!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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